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Skills bring winds of change
Program slowly making positive impact on student outlook, says teacher

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 14, 2017

John Arnalukjuak High School teacher Kimberley Dymond has become a big fan of Skills Canada since she began working with students entering the program six years ago in Arviat.

NNSL photograph

John Arnalukjuak High School teacher Kimberley Dymond gives the mini-backhoe trainer a try in the heavy-equipment-operator area of the Skills Canada National Competition in Winnipeg earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Gord Billard

Dymond was originally recruited to help out with the cosmetology program, and a year later she started doing a hair-styling club with interested students.

She spent the next four years as a club leader, having six or seven students join every year to learn how to cut, colour and style hair, before heading off to Iqaluit to compete in the Skills Nunavut competition.

During the years she's overseen the hairdressing club, Dymond has had two of her students make it to the national competition.

Dymond said this past year, Amalea Gibbons placed fairly well for a national competition and that was really exciting for everyone.

"There are absolutely no expectations on our girls to get a gold medal when we go to the nationals and because it's not a top priority for us, we don't care if they win gold, although it would be amazing if one of them did," she said.

"We want them to see other people, learn from what they're doing and take that knowledge back home with them, so, in my opinion, it's really a learning experience more than anything else.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for them to go to the competition and learn from all the top people in their category in Canada."

Dymond said to put things into proper perspective you have to realize there will be upwards of 100 kids in Ontario competing for one spot to go to nationals.

She said not only are they a group of very high-calibre people competing against each other, but they're also being trained by professional photographers and hairdressers.

"So, yes, we are at a disadvantage, but, at the same time, without this learning experience, our students would just stay at the same level," she said.

"To me, the big thing is that they're learning and being exposed to what they could do better.

"We're still super proud of them, no matter where they place."

Dymond said another big plus for the students is the experience of being outside of Nunavut and understanding the basics of city living, so if they do choose to attend college or university in a city, they have a better understanding of how to navigate a city centre.

She said many of the students haven't travelled much outside of Nunavut, so they really benefit from the experience.

"The cities, especially the larger ones, can give them a lot of eye-opening experiences and maybe even a little bit of shock or fear at first, but, for the most part, I've seen them embrace where they are and the experiences that come with it," she said.

"From how I've seen our students react, it's always been more about opening their minds to new possibilities than intimidating them or causing them to shy away and not want to come back again."

Dymond said exposure to the trades is showing the students they have more choices.

She said a number of students have no idea what they really want to do outside of going to university or getting a job within their community.

"Through their exposure to the trades, however, they're learning that there are more job opportunities out there: they can learn to become an electrician, a plumber, or a hairdresser, and they don't necessarily have to go to university in order to have a bright future," she said.

"They're becoming aware that these are professions in which they can make really good money, so, since Skills Nunavut started holding more competitions, they've been exposed to more options than they would have perceived in Grade 7 or Grade 8.

"I love the Skills Canada program because it's fantastic for all the kids, but, especially the kids who aren't into sports and want to try something different -and it's really starting to gain momentum here which, in my opinion, only means good things in the future."

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